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Must Read: Behavioral Targeting

Must Read: Behavioral Targeting

What is behavioral targeting, and is it really the next big trend?  Most marketers agree that behavioral targeting works.  Because of that, you may be shocked to learn that by the most common behavioral targeting definition, only 24 percent of online marketers are using it.  What's more, only 2 percent of advertising budgets are going toward behavior targeting.  Keep reading this guide to learn not just the basics like “what is behavioral targeting,” but also some great strategies that can help you use this tool without making big mistakes and hurting your bottom line.

What is Behavioral Targeting?  Basics and Definitions

The behavioral targeting definition that is broadest is just identifying customers and showing them different ads depending on their patterns of behavior.  This kind of behavior targeting can actually occur online or off.  You probably already use some form of behavioral targeting in your offline advertisements, based on this behavioral targeting definition.  Think about it: every time you put a display ad in a phone book or on a billboard, you're advertising to people engaging in a specific behavior.

Today, though, the behavioral targeting definition most marketers care about is the online definition.  What is behavioral targeting online?  Well, in the online world, behavioral targeting can refer to two different things: targeting ads by network behavior (that is, things people do in a large network of websites) and on site behavior (behavior targeting based on results from just one website).

When you're using behavior targeting based on a network, you're getting more results that tell you more about what people did elsewhere on the web.  However, you're also getting a huge amount of data, which can be vastly more difficult to interpret and keep track of.

Firms new to behavior targeting may want to start their campaign by using onsite behavioral targeting instead.  This limits the amount of data you'll be tracking and helps you see exactly how people are using your website.  Once you start testing different ads for people based on how they're using your site, you may see major changes to how those ads are perceived and how often they're clicked on.

What is Behavioral Targeting Tracking?

Regardless of which behavioral targeting definition you're using, network or onsite, behavioral targeting on websites takes the form of “cookies” that log people's information.  What is behavioral targeting keeping track of?  That depends on what you're looking for with your behavior targeting.  It can track how long people spend on certain websites, what they're searching for, and even demographic information like their date of birth.

Remember, because of the flexible behavioral targeting definition, you can do whatever you need in order to make behavior targeting work for you.  Try tracking something unusual if you have a hunch that it could be useful in your behavioral targeting.  With enough testing, you'll find out if your guess was right.

What is a Behavioral Targeting Platform?

Let's face it: no one has time to do everything covered by the behavioral targeting definition all by themselves.  Great behavior targeting requires great tools, and you'll want to shop around to get the best platform for your behavior-targeted campaigns.

Using a behavioral targeting platform, you can track what is behavioral targeting making for you, and split test huge numbers of campaigns.  You can change your behavioral targeting definition to work with multiple network sites or just to do behavior targeting on your own website.

Most of these platforms make it very easy to do basic analytics for your behavioral targeting campaigns, so you'll never have to worry again that you're running a bad ad.  Behavioral advertising by definition works better when you're keeping better track of customer behavior, so it's likely that you'll see better results as you continue to use a behavior targeting platform for several months.

What is Behavioral Targeting for Emails?

If the behavioral targeting definition for websites didn't seem like something you'd want to do, there are other options as well.  Instead of using behavior targeting on a website, consider using emails. 

What is behavioral targeting going to do to help your firm get better email results?  Well, keep in mind that behavioral targeting definition: you can now look at people who are taking certain steps, and email them when they behave in ways that suggest they're ready to act.

For example, if someone has visited your website in the past and left their email address, a behavior targeting email could send an automatic “Do you still need help?” email after a certain amount of time had passed with no response.  These direct ads can help re-direct traffic toward your site even if someone had forgotten about their visit.

Starting Your Behavioral Targeting Campaign

It can be a little bit frightening to go from asking “what is behavioral targeting” to starting a whole new type of ad campaign.  If you've never done any kind of behavior targeting before, you should consider hiring a web marketing agency to help you develop the kind of behavioral targeting you want.

When you talk to your marketing agency, it's a good idea to go in with your goals and target market already in mind.  If you know some things about the demographics of the markets you're trying to reach, your agency may be able to tell you new ways to expand the behavioral targeting definition to include reaching out to those groups.


Evaluating Your Behavioral Targeting Campaign

Before you start a campaign of behavior targeting, you should ask: what is behavioral targeting success for your company?  Setting clear goals for your campaign will make sure that you're achieving what you set out to do, not just changing the ways people interact with your advertisements.

You won't necessarily see results from behavior targeting right away.  Behavioral targeting works best when you're doing constant and rigorous testing.  If one idea for changing your behavior targeting strategy doesn't seem to work, try something new.  Having several simultaneous tests going at all times can make sure that your results get better faster.